Syria opposition coalition suffers setback

2012-11-20 08:13
Syrians clean a street in the Tarik al-Bab neighbourhood of Aleppo. (Francisco Leong, AFP)

Syrians clean a street in the Tarik al-Bab neighbourhood of Aleppo. (Francisco Leong, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

  • Syria
    Options and Implications for Lebanon and the Region Now R196.00
    buy now

Beirut - The new Syrian National Coalition, announced less than two weeks ago amid much fanfare in the Qatari capital Doha, suffered its first major setback on Monday as Islamist rebel groups refused to endorse it.

Already recognised as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people by the Gulf states, Turkey and France, the group was snubbed by Islamist groups including the two most important, the Al-Nusra Front and Liwa al-Tawhid.

The announcement in an internet video by the Islamist rebel groups of their decision and their aim to make Syria an Islamist state could, experts believe, hamper the coalition's pressing request for military help from the West.

"We, the fighting squads of Aleppo city and province, unanimously reject the conspiratorial project called the National Coalition and announce our consensus to establish an Islamic state" in Syria, a spokesperson announced in the video.

"We reject any external coalitions or councils imposed on us at home from any party whatsoever," he said of the 11 November announcement of the new opposition umbrella grouping.

The Al-Nusra Front, a formidable fighting force, has claimed the majority of suicide bombing attacks in Syria's deadly 20-month-old conflict, while Liwa al-Tawhid, at first close to the Muslim Brotherhood, has become more radical.

'Make this your constitution'

"The announcement by the Islamist groups is a major blow to the coalition," said Hilal Khashan, a political science professor at the American University of Beirut.

"It is for this reason that the Americans and British remained prudent before recognising the coalition as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people."

But he added: "It will not have a great impact on the question of weapons because if the West really wants to aid the emergence of a liberal and nationalist coalition, it must arm the secular groups to counterbalance the Islamists."

In the Islamist video, after the statement is made another man holds up a Qur'an, saying forcefully to the camera: "Make this your constitution."

The video speaker listed 14 armed groups as signatories to the statement, but the Ahrar al-Sham group rejected the proclamation on its web page, saying it did not endorse the statement.

However, the Islamist groups rejecting the National Coalition are among the most important fighting units in northern Syria, which is now almost entirely in rebel hands.

Jihadists main opposition

Abdel Jabbar al-Okaidi, who heads the main rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) in Aleppo, said the statement did not represent the opinion of all rebel groups in the province.

"These groups represent a number of military factions on the ground and reflect their position, but not all military forces in Aleppo agree with this," the defector, a former army colonel, said by phone.

"The military council has announced its support for the National Coalition and is collaborating with them."

Jihadists have become the main armed opposition fighting in northern Syria, with militants estimating their manpower could number more than 10 000.

Beirut-based scholar Francois Burgat is an expert on the Islamist movement and believes the video statement is more military than political.

"If this news is confirmed, the headlong eradication of the Syrian regime means these are the most determined fighters who are in the forefront," such as the Al-Nusra Front, he said.

Problem addressed 'the wrong way'

"The presence of this radical fringe group does not, however, allow us to prejudge the ultimate political balance of the rebel combatants: The Front is appreciated as an armed spearhead, not as an ideological leader.

But, paradoxically, this "risks reining in those who favour lifting the arms embargo, while it is precisely such a measure that could give real credibility to the coalition and speed up the political reorientation of the armed groups", Burgat added.

Thomas Pierret, a Syria specialist at the University of Edinburgh, said he believes the West is addressing the problem the wrong way.

"The West is asking the question backwards, separating the question of representation from that of resources: They expect the Coalition to prove itself before helping it," he said.

"Yet, such organisations cannot achieve credibility unless they have resources to distribute, and such resources have to be obtained initially from abroad.

"This is a basic tenet of international politics that the West pretends not to be aware of."

The news of the video came as EU ministers meeting in Brussels explored how to assist the new coalition, including lifting the arms embargo.

Read more on:    syria  |  syria conflict  |  uprisings

Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24


'Zuma's legacy will be judged by Nkandla'

The legacy of President Jacob Zuma is contingent on how he deals with the issue of upgrades to his Nkandla homestead, says Cape Town Archbishop Thabo Makgoba.


Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
  • Thursday Sir Lowry's Pass - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Old Sir Lowrys Pass Road
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Bezweni Road
  • Thursday Cape Town - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Buitengracht Street
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Waterkant Street
More traffic reports...

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now! - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

DSTV Mobile iDrifta

The iDrifta is a plug and play mobile DVB-H receiver...

From R445.00

I'm shopping for:


Self-indulgence may be strong today. You may want to enjoy yourself to the fullest and share it with those that make you more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.